Commercial Lease Documents Explained

Typical Sections in a Commercial Real Estate Lease

commercial lease
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What's Included in a Commercial Lease Document?

As you finalize the process of negotiating your commercial lease, you will be handed a commercial lease document. Here are the common sections of commercial leases, and a brief explanation of these sections.

  1. Parties
    The official names of the tenant and landlord. Make sure your business is a party to the lease, not you personally. If something goes wrong, you don't want to be personally liable. You may be required to give a personal guarantee for the lease, but the documents can still be in the business name. 
  1. Premises
    Describes the space you are renting. Verify that you understand how the space is assigned and what specifically you are paying rent on. That includes CAM - common area maintenance - which can be a hidden cost if you aren't careful. 
  2. Rent
    Explains how the rent is calculated, including common area maintenance (CAM) and other costs associated with the lease. Common terms such as "gross lease" or "triple net lease" may be included here; make certain you understand what these terms mean.
  3. Term
    Explains when the lease begins and ends. This section may also describe how the lease may be re-negotiated.
  4. Deposit
    Describes the security deposit the tenant is required to provide, and the circumstances under which it may be forfeited or returned.
  5. Hold Over
    Explains what happens if the tenant does not leave at the end of the lease.
  6. Utilities
    If utilitity costs are included in the lease, it explaines how they are metered and distributed among the tenants. In some cases, each tenant may have a separate meter. If the tenant is paying the utilities, this section may explain the requirement to pay utilities and what happens if they are not paid on a timely basis. This protects the landlord if the tenant fails to pay utilities.
  1. Use/Restrictions
    Lists the restrictions on use of the premises, including signs, hours of use, and limits on occupancy and sub-lessees.
  2. Taxes and insurance
    Discusses who pays property taxes and insurance on the property. This section usually includes a requirement that the tenant provide proof of insurance on property and equipment in the leased space and liability insurance, to protect the landlord. Usually the tenant is required to indemnify the landlord [hold him/her harmless) in any liability suits against the tenant.
  1. Parking
    Describes the parking available for the leased space. Some lease documents differentiate between where employees may park and general customer parking. Make certain that the parking space conforms to ADA standards by providing adequate handicapped parking.
  2. Maintenance
    Describes who is responsible for making and paying for maintance and repairs. Most leases require tenants to pay for repairs due to "wear and tear" (common usage), with the landlord being responsible for extraordinary repairs due to major damage or failure of equipment.
  3. Assignment and Subletting
    Some leases have a separate section describing the conditions under which you can sub-let the space.
  4. Options
    Describes the options you may have to rent additional space in the building if it becomes available, or options to buy the property.
  5. Defaults and Remedies
    Describes what happens if one party defaults (breaks the agreement), and the remedies available to the other party.
  6. Destruction/Condemnation
    These clauses describe what happens if the leased space is destroyed or condemned.
  7. Subordination, nondisturbance, and attornment.
    Describes rights of the tenant if the landlord's lender forecloses on the property. This section protects the tenant against being ejected by a new landlord or the bank.
  1. Estoppel
    Explains what happens if there is a change in the landlord's situation, to verify that the tenant is living up to his/her duties as a tenant.
  2. Attorney Fees
    Agreement about who pays attorney fees in the event of a lawsuit between landlord and tenant.
  3. Dispute Resolution
    Some leases provide for alternate forms of dispute resolution, like mediation and arbitration.

Have an attorney review the terms of the lease, to explain any specific terms that you don't understand, and to look for issues that might be a problem for you or are not what you thought you agreed to.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney or a commercial Realtor. This article is provided for general information and should not be relied on as legal advice.

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